Support » Plugins » Strain database / community tool. Advice appreciated

  • Hello,

    I’m a pretty seasoned developer and recently got involved with a project outside of work. Currently, I’m in the process of deciding on a framework or open source API to use to develop our idea. So far I’ve explored how themes work, how plugins are implemented and started playing with some sort of theme api called Thematic (which seems pretty cool).

    So, basically I collected a large amount of data about plants and different kinds of plant conditions that affect agricultural resources. Here is a brief overview of what a user can do with the interface I have:

    • Search the plant tables based on any meta-data criteria
    • Propose a change in data or contribute high quality images to associate with a plant record

    What I am curious about is how to leverage the comments and user authorization features in WordPress to associate with records in the plant tables. One approach I considered was to create a post for each plant record (scripted) and then create a table that maps the relation between posts and plant records to easily associate comments with plant records. One issue is that not every plant record has a description or meta-data in which to store some sort of summary but I could probably suppress display of anything from the original WordPress posts and replace any search forms with a custom search that will point to my own plugin / implementation.

    So my questions are:

    Is there a better way to integrate the WordPress comments system into my own custom interface (integrated as a plugin)?

    Would it be better to try to migrate my data as custom page / post meta-data elements and focus my efforts on creating a more “native” type of integration?

    Either way, I can wield the data and map it anyway possible if need be. I know there are tons of plugins and extension so potentially there is something in that realm that I might find useful?

    In any case, I am not very experienced with developing under WordPress but so far it doesn’t look too bad. Any advice would be much appreciated.


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  • bump!

    If you can write it sure. However what your suggesting if I read correctly WordPress does not do out of the box, without plugins. WordPress is a blogging platform. Yes it can do amazing things, but what your suggesting, and please correct me if I am wrong, is a botanical database.

    There are some database plugins for WordPress. You could give those a try in a testing environment and see if they do what you need.

    There is also plugin which allows you to use custom fields to add values called Custom Field Template ( Personally I find this the easiest way to add data to a database field, and have been very impressed by this plugin.

    You could write the (additional) plugins you need if they don’t exist.

    However I am not sure what or where the added functionality would be compared to writing your own web database application from scratch. And you might (probably) be quicker off in this case.

    Your proposing something that WordPress, as far as I know, wasn’t initially designed for.

    I am hesitant to say which CMS would. Drupal might be able to this. And Joomla in 1.0 had a database plugin that I was pretty happy about in testing, but I am not sure if there is one for Joomla 1.5. Otherwise somebody may know a CMS specifically designed for this sort of thing.

    I have checked the custom field template out recently and determined that the backend database structure that supports this feature may not be practical but I may give it a try and import my datasets into them to see how it performs without caching enabled.

    Most CMS packages are convoluted and heavy. The things I don’t want to write from scratch WordPress seems to provide in a way that is simple and straight forward (user registration / management, threaded comments, community features, spam control). I’m a big OO nut so it appears there are ways I can implement my project the way I want and still integrate with WordPress and hopefully not break upgrading.

    Thank you for your response design_dolphin. It’s good to get another perspective. I am still considering other open source packages so I would appreciate any other feedback or advice.

    Thanks again!

    One way to go might be to create a separate database, and then build a custom search. Have the custom database use a joint on the id’s of the posts.

    The thing is though would each post be a separate record? Would you use parent and child categories as scientific classification? I am not sure how many child categories you can have, so that is something to check out if you don’t know, want to go that route, and if it is the best way to go in your use case.

    And would you use tags?

    For example one thing I like about Drupal is one can have different and separate vocabularies for tags, and have children tags (although I don’t know about how many children) I am not sure if you can have children tags in WordPress. And if you would need to. In WordPress you have the category system. So in essence you have the same.

    Using custom fields might give you the opportunity to cross-link as you wish. So all records of a genus for example, or all records of a species. Although for phylum you would also want to show the class. But that might be doable. But then you might have a conflict between whether to assign the data value (single or multiple records?) to custom values or categories. Because when do you name a phylum a custom value or a category? And what about tags? Would they just give you one unordened list of tags unless you had parent and child tags. I don’t know if you can have parent and child tags (like you have in Drupal) Although I am sure you could write a plugin or there might already exist one. The prospect of editing a thousand tags, with scientific classification might be daunting. I hope I am not confusing you (which would be because of my explanation).

    It is the linking of the records to each other, so say show all of the same species, that might pose the most problems as you are trying to get the clicked link to show up in the right url and have the theme follow.

    Custom values solve this by being able to load a theme template file based on the custom value. So then you would have to write some kind of interface which would allow for example searchable/ jumpdown menus which have the current records. Or similar possibly to the current tags system. And custom values may already do the recognition part, don’t know off the top of my head. Or the custom value plugin I mentioned might do this or would be easy to add on. In any case something easy, simple, and quick for people to find and edit records from the post screen? But how would they edit a hundred records the same way you can in a database view? Would you have each record be one post. or how to add say a ‘tag’ to a hundred posts based on a genus.

    Please keep in mind though that if WordPress updates, which it does regularly this could cause problems with custom code/ plugins. The release schedule of WordPress I find a blessing and a curse sometimes. Because you are hoping that all plugins catch up. Or you can write your own theme code. But the less code the better, because less to update. Now if you have the money to have some one check the code and rapidly implement, or you can do this yourself, or the plugin authors/ maintainers/ people that help have done this, then o.k. However keep in mind it can be a problem. Not saying it will happen, but mistakes can happen during an update (the more variables the greater the risk). Get to know the projects, some are very consistant. I don’t know the projects I mentioned enough to give a judgement on that. In the regard of updates I prefer Drupal more because they have a scheduled release schedule, with security updates and bug fixes if needed along the way. The release schedule of WordPress sometimes seems rushed from a scheduling point of view. We are all now going to next version, without knowing whether it is a security update or tweak or a bug fix. You can find this of course, but for a beginner it is important to remember that update to core can mean update to plugins. Will the update break the plugins, but the dashboard says I have to update the core? You can understand the dilemma.

    I can definitely agree with you on the pros of WordPress, the coding is easy to understand (manageable), the theming is a breeze (with possibly the exception of some advanced stuff, but they don’t call it advance stuff for nothing), the back-end interface is great, the documentation is excellent. So I can definitely understand you.

    Personally I am bit at a cross roads, when I choose to design a application from the groundup, because I get bogged down too much on the complications of creating a hybrid CMS functionality, then I am happy at how easy it goes to write a application from the ground up, but then realize of all the stuff I would have to write in order to get the same functionality of WordPress.

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